NYR: A Weapon for Readers

I’ll be the first to admit.  I can’t stand marginalia, though I am the very first to feel that intensity of pride when I read through my grandfather’s books to read his notations in the margins.

So I’m having a hard time with this challenge, as issued by Tim parks over at the New York Review of Books:

Aside from simply insisting, as I already had for years, that they be more alert, I began to wonder what was the most practical way I could lead my students to a greater attentiveness, teach them to protect themselves from all those underlying messages that can shift one’s attitude without one’s being aware of it? I began to think about the way I read myself, about the activity of reading, what you put into it rather than what was simply on the page. Try this experiment, I eventually told them: from now on always read with a pen in your hands, not beside you on the table, but actually in your hand, ready, armed. And always make three or four comments on every page, at least one critical, even aggressive. Put a question mark by everything you find suspect. Underline anything you really appreciate. Feel free to write “splendid,” but also, “I don’t believe a word of it.” And even “bullshit.”

Those who have perused the Kenney Library know that I rarely if ever even crack the spine of a book.  I’m careful to read them at 90deg angles lest I actually do crack the spine and ruin it for future generations.

Marking them with a pen?  Even for a textbook for class?  Philistine… then again, how many thoughts have escaped for a moment and then fleeted away into the ether because I wouldn’t write it down?

Maybe I’ll start this for classes next semester.  Doubtful… but I may.

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